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Bitcoin Completes its Fourth Halving: Key Metrics and Market Outlook

The highly anticipated Bitcoin software update, known as the “halving,” has been successfully implemented, potentially impacting companies involved in maintaining the digital currency’s operations. This event, occurring once every four years, has reduced the mining reward by half, which is the compensation given to miners for validating transactions on the network. The adjustment took effect at 8:10 p.m. Friday evening New York time and had minimal immediate impact on Bitcoin’s price, which remained stable near the $64,000 level.

This reduction in rewards was intentionally programmed into Bitcoin’s blockchain code by its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, to uphold a hard cap of 21 million Bitcoin and prevent inflation. With this fourth halving since 2012, the daily reward for miners has decreased from 900 Bitcoin to 450 Bitcoin.

Key Metrics to Monitor: Block Reward and Hash Rate

There may be some speculative trading on the event itself. Deutsche Bank said it “does not expect prices to increase significantly” and JPMorgan said it expects to see some downside in bitcoin post-halving. However, the impact may be bigger months from now, even if bitcoin continues its trend of diminishing returns from its halving day to its cycle top. Two key metrics to monitor will be the block reward and the hash rate.

Miners are driven by two main incentives: transaction fees, paid voluntarily by senders for quicker settlement, and mining rewards, which were reduced to 3.125 bitcoins (about $200,000 as of Friday) from the initial 50 bitcoins as the mining reward halved from 6.25 bitcoins. This reduction in block rewards curbs the bitcoin supply by slowing down the creation of new coins, reinforcing bitcoin’s status as digital gold with a finite supply that influences its value. Ultimately, the total number of bitcoins will max out at 21 million according to the Bitcoin code, with approximately 19.6 million currently in circulation.

Miners use specialized hardware to validate transactions and permanently record them on the blockchain through a process called mining. With each halving event, the mining reward decreases, ensuring scarcity and controlling the cryptocurrency’s inflation rate over time.

Historically, following a halving event, the Bitcoin hash rate, representing the total computational power used by miners, has dropped, causing some miners to exit the market due to reduced profitability. However, it typically rebounds in the medium term, as noted by Laboure. Despite this trend, the network hash rate has been reaching record highs in recent months as miners competed to gain market share before the halving.

This increased hash rate diminishes the individual contribution of miners to the overall network hash rate. In the past three halvings, the network has regained its pre-halving hash rate levels within an average of 57 days, Deutsche Bank analyst Marion Laboure explained. “It is also likely that the current elevated prices of bitcoin may limit this short-term dip in the hash rate, as bitcoin miners enjoy record high profits in the lead-up to the halving”, she suggested.

Halving Impact on Market Dynamics and Mining Firms

Advocates of Bitcoin view the halving as a positive development for the ongoing bull market. “While the upcoming Bitcoin halving will create a supply shock as the previous ones had, we believe its impact on the cryptocurrency’s price could be magnified by the concurrent demand shock created by the emergence of spot bitcoin ETFs,” said Benchmark’s Mark Palmer.

Despite expectations for a bullish market response, analysts from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG had previously suggested that the impact of the halving was already factored into market prices. The event’s primary impact is anticipated to affect Bitcoin mining companies more significantly than the cryptocurrency’s price itself. This update is projected to reduce the annual revenue of miners substantially, although continued price increases could mitigate this effect.

“Miners with access to inexpensive, reliable power sources are well positioned to navigate the post-halving market dynamics,” said Maxim’s Matthew Galinko, Research Analyst at Maxim Group, in a note Friday. “Some miners, many that are not public, could exit the market with a combination of poor access to power, efficient machines, and capital. Miners with capital and relatively expensive power will likely find opportunities in the wake of potential consolidation and disruption driven by the halving.”

Likewise, JPMorgan predicts consolidation in the sector, with publicly-listed miners poised to gain market share due to their access to funding and equity financing. Past halvings have occurred without major disruptions to Bitcoin’s operations, and the next halving is scheduled for 2028, further reducing mining rewards and signaling the eventual shift to transaction fees as the primary revenue source for miners.

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